Schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial

Introduction

Leading up to your Supreme Court trial, you must complete several steps and prepare, file, and serve several documents. Many of these tasks have important deadlines, so use our timeline below to mark your deadlines in your calendar.

Take careful note of what each date relates to. The number of days listed is in relation to your trial date. See the list on the right to see a summary of each step, then click them for more detail and a link to the relevant step in the guide.

Schedule your trial

You'll need

To set a a trial date, you must file and serve a Notice of Trial (Form F44). The person who filed the Notice of Family Claim (the claimant) also completes and files the Notice of Trial (unless the court orders someone else to do it). The claimant must also serve the Notice of Trial on the other person immediately after filing it.

Find your trial date

Before you can file a Notice of Trial, you need to know what date to put on it.

If you've had a Judicial Case Conference, a judge might have given you dates for your trial.

If you haven't had a Judicial Case Conference, or you had one but didn't get any trial dates, go to the court registry where you filed the Notice of Family Claim and talk to the trial coordinator.

Estimate the length of your trial

How long you have to wait for your trial varies from registry to registry. It will also depend on how many days your trial will take. Before you contact the trial coordinator, estimate how long you think the trial will be. This way, they can find a suitable block of time for you. Consider things such as:

  • How many witnesses will testify for you?
  • How long will it take you to present your evidence?
  • How long will it take you to sum up your case for the judge?
  • How long will it take you to make arguments about the law that applies to your case?
  • How much time will the other person need for their witnesses and case presentation?

You might find it hard to estimate how long your trial will take. Consult with the other person. If they have a lawyer, their lawyer might be able to come up with a reasonable estimate.

In many locations, the first available trial dates are 12 to 18 months in the future. Often, people or their lawyers book trial dates early in the case, before they know for sure if they'll need a trial. Up to 95 percent of cases settle before they go to trial.

Set your trial dates

Once you have an estimate of your trial's length, contact the trial coordinator at the court registry where you filed your Notice of Family Claim. Ask the trial coordinator how to go about scheduling the trial, as scheduling is not done exactly the same way in every court. Tell them your estimated trial length. Ask when the earliest available trial dates are so you know what times are available to you.

Look at your own schedule and think about how long it will take you to be prepared for trial. Then, select three or four dates that will work for you. Speak with the other person to make sure they (and their lawyer, if they have one) are available on the dates you'd like to propose to the trial coordinator.

If you schedule the trial without speaking with the other person and they're not available, they'll probably be able to get the judge to adjourn (postpone) the trial. You'll have to wait even longer for your trial to start. The other person has 21 days to apply for an adjournment.

Once you've agreed on a few possible dates, go to the court registry and talk to the trial coordinator. Tell them which dates you and the other person have available that match up with the dates the court has available. The trial coordinator will then reserve your trial dates. File the Notice of Trial within 30 days of the trial date being reserved. If the date changes, you'll need to file and serve a new Notice of Trial.

Serve expert reports

You'll need

If your case involves expert reports, make sure the following documents are served before the trial:

  • At least 84 days before trial, serve on the other person any expert report you want to introduce at trial.
  • If you want to respond to an expert report that you've been served with, serve your own expert report on the other person at least 42 days before trial.
  • If the court orders a child-related assessment under section 211 of the Family Law Act, the person who prepares the report must file and serve a copy on all the people involved in the case (unless the court orders otherwise) at least 42 days before the trial.
  • If you or the other person wants to cross-examine the person who prepared an assessment under section 211 of the Family Law Act, serve notice on that person and the other person, using a Notice to Cross-examine (Form F43), at least 28 days before the trial.

For more information on expert reports, see What is evidence and how do you present it in Supreme Court?.

File and serve the Trial Brief

You'll need

At least 28 days before the first day of your trial, you'll have to attend a Trial Management Conference. At least seven days before the Trial Management Conference, you and the other person must each file a Trial Brief (Form F45) and serve your Trial Briefs on each other.

Fill in the nine sections of the Trial Brief

  1. Summary of Issues and Positions. List the issues you and the other person can't agree on and your position on each one.
  2. Witnesses to Be Called. List the names and addresses of the witnesses you'll call at trial, and an estimate of the time each one will need to give their evidence (excluding cross-examination).
  3. Expert Reports. List the expert reports you'll offer as evidence at trial.
  4. Witnesses to Be Cross-Examined. List the witnesses for the other person that you intend to cross-examine at trial, and an estimate of how long you'll need for each one.
  5. Orders that may affect the conduct of the trial. List any existing orders that might affect the trial.
  6. Documents and Exhibits. List the documents and exhibits you'll refer to at the trial.
  7. Authorities. List any authorities (case names or statutory provisions) you'll rely on at the trial.
  8. Order. List the terms of the order you're asking the judge to make.
  9. Time Required for Submissions. Estimate how long your opening statement and final submissions will take.

Fill in the fields in the cover page for the Trial Brief

  • The court file number and the registry
  • Your name and the other person's name
  • The title "TRIAL BRIEF"
  • A brief description of what the material is about (for example, "Rule 14-3(3) Trial Brief for family law trial")
  • Contact information for you and the other person or your lawyers, including addresses for service, phone and fax numbers or email addresses that the registry can use to contact you
  • The time, date, and place of the hearing
  • The estimated length of time for the hearing
  • The name of the person filing the Trial Brief
Only the witnesses identified in your Trial Brief can testify at your trial.

Serve the Trial Brief on the other person

See Serve Supreme Court documents for more information on how to do this.

Prepare for and attend the Trial Management Conference

At least 28 days before trial, you'll attend a Trial Management Conference. When you get your trial date, the trial coordinator will also give you a date for your Trial Management Conference.

A Trial Management Conference is a short meeting with a judge where they make sure that both you and the other person are organized and ready for trial. The judge wants to make sure that everything is in place to help the trial be efficient and fair. If you have any questions or concerns about what will happen at the trial, you can ask them here.

What's discussed at the Trial Management Conference?

At the Trial Management Conference, the judge can raise or make orders on many issues. These are listed in Supreme Court Family Rule 14-3(9) and include:

  • amendment of pleadings (e.g., Notice of Family Claim, Response)
  • that you and the other person attend a settlement conference
  • a plan for how the trial should be conducted
  • that the number of days set aside for trial be changed
  • facts to be admitted at trial
  • documents to be admitted at trial, including agreements about the purpose of the documents at trial or preparing a common book of documents
  • time limits on how long witnesses can be examined and cross-examined
  • that a party provide a summary of the evidence of any witness
  • that the evidence of witnesses be presented at trial in affidavit form
  • time limits on opening statements and final submissions
  • that the parties attend another Trial Management Conference
  • that the trial be adjourned

Do you need to attend the Trial Management Conference?

If you're representing yourself, you must attend the Trial Management Conference. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer can go without you. But you'll have to be available either in person or by phone during the meeting for your lawyer to consult with you.

Make a trial book

You'll need

  • A three-ring binder (1-inch is a good size)
  • Four dividers
  • Blank paper
  • A computer or a pen
  • A hole punch
You're not required to prepare a trial book, but it can be a very useful tool. Having all the different parts of your case in one place and organized in order can help you stay on track during the trial.

Create sections in your binder

Label four dividers to create these sections:

  1. Trial Preparation Worksheet
  2. Your evidence
  3. Cross-examination
  4. Your summary

1. Trial Preparation Worksheet

To prepare a Trial Preparation Worksheet, divide a sheet of paper into three columns:

  • List the points you must prove at trial in Column 1.
  • In Column 2, list the evidence you're going to use at trial to prove those points.
  • In Column 3, write additional notes, like how you're going to present the evidence.

For example:

What I need to prove Evidence I'll use Notes
Ex-spouse's income Financial Statements Document — introduce when ex-spouse is testifying
Special expenses Receipts from dance classes Document — introduce through my testimony
Where children live Oral evidence My testimony and testimony of my mother
Selling of assets Transcript from examination for discovery Document — introduced through my testimony

You can now use the Trial Preparation Worksheet as a checklist to be sure that you gather and prepare everything you need for trial.

2. Your evidence

There are two parts to your evidence: witness testimony and documents.

Witness testimony

This is the evidence you're going to put in front of the court through what you and your witnesses say. For this section of your trial book, make a plan for questioning witnesses and giving your own testimony:

  • Look at your Trial Preparation Worksheet. Make a list of the facts you're going to prove through your own testimony or the testimony of a witness.
  • Make a separate page for each witness (including you). At the top of the page, write the witness's contact information and the day they're going to testify. Then, make a detailed list of questions you'll ask each witness. (See Sample questions to ask your own witnesses at a Supreme Court trial for more information about what types of questions you can ask witnesses.)
  • For your own testimony, write a detailed list of what you want to say. Your first point will be a short statement about why you're in court (such as, "I'm applying for orders for child support, spousal support, division of property, and divorce.").

Review your questions with your witnesses before the trial. It's important that you know the answers your witnesses will give, to avoid surprises or confusion at trial. But you mustn't coach your witnesses on how to answer the questions.

Documents

On a sheet of paper, list all the documents you plan to introduce into evidence at trial. Note which witness will identify each document (unless you and the other person have agreed that the document can be introduced). You'll be putting together a separate book of documents that contains the documents themselves, so also note the tab number where each document can be found in that book of documents. Listed documents can include affidavits, financial statements, letters, photographs, receipts, or reports.

This list is for your own reference, and is not the same as the formal List of Documents you share with the other person during discovery. Remember, at the trial you can only refer to documents that are on your List of Documents. You can't surprise the other side with a document they don't know about.

3. Cross-examination

A cross-examination is when one person asks questions of the other person and their witnesses. You'll know ahead of time what witnesses the other side will be calling.

Make a separate page for each of the other person's witnesses (including the other person). List the questions you want to ask them when it's your turn to cross-examine. You'll probably think of new questions during the trial, so add those as you go along. See Sample questions to ask when cross-examining witnesses at a Supreme Court trial for tips on cross-examining witnesses.

4. Your summary

After all the evidence on both sides has been heard, you'll make your closing argument. This is a summary (a short version) of your evidence and how it supports your claims. It's also the time for any legal arguments you want to make (for example, about precedents). This is your final opportunity to convince the judge to make the order you want. The other person gets a chance to do this as well.

Put a copy of your Trial Preparation Worksheet in the summary section of your trial book. Take notes on it during the trial and use it as a guide when you sum up your case for the judge by describing:

  • what you had to prove, and
  • what evidence you gave to prove it.
The closing argument is not another chance to give evidence. You can only refer to points on which evidence has already been given.

Make a book of documents

You'll need

  • A three-ring binder large enough to hold all the documents you'll need
  • Labelled dividers or sticky notes
  • A hole punch
  • All the documents you will plan to present at trial
Like a trial book, a book of documents isn't required but it's a very useful tool. It's a binder containing all the documents you plan to present to the court as evidence during the trial. You can enter this book of documents as an exhibit at trial.

Create an organized book of documents

  • Put your documents in order according to date
  • Separate the documents with numbered tabs or sticky-notes, so you can find them easily
  • Number each page of any document longer than one page

The documents section in your trial book will list which witness will identify each document. But remember, you don't always have to call a witness to identify a document. If you can get the other person to agree that you can use a particular document to prove a particular fact, you might be able to present the document in court without needing to call a witness.

Reach an agreement at the Trial Management Conference on what documents you'll both agree to admit. Or use a Notice to Admit (Form 26) to get the other person's agreement about admitting documents. See What is discovery? to find out more about this.

Consider preparing a joint book of documents

If possible, it's very helpful to the court if you and the other person can agree to prepare a joint book of documents. This way, all the documents are in one place. If everyone involved in the case agrees, this joint book of documents can be entered as an exhibit at the trial.

There might be some documents you want to present to the court that the other person objects to including in the joint book of documents. In that case, you'll have to deal with those documents separately during the trial.

File a Certificate of Pleadings

You'll need

If your trial includes a claim for divorce, you'll need to file a Certificate of Pleadings (Form F36) before you can file your trial record. (This is different from the Trial Certificate.) The Certificate of Pleadings says all your documents are in order.

If your trial doesn't include a claim for divorce, you don't need to file a Certificate of Pleadings. Skip this step and move on to Step 8.

Fill out the top of the form. Leave blank the part after "I certify the pleadings and proceedings in this family law case are in order."

Take the Certificate to the court registry where you filed your Notice of Trial. After you file it, the registrar will search the file and sign and return the Certificate to you. If something's missing, the registrar won't sign the Certificate and will let you know it's not complete yet.

File and serve the trial record

You'll need

  • Copies of all the required documents (see below)
  • Blank paper
  • Supreme Court cover page (Word) (PDF)

The trial record is a set of some of the documents that have been filed by the people involved in a case and some of the orders issued by the court in the lead-up to a trial. The person who filed the Notice of Trial must prepare and file the trial record.

Documents to include in the trial record

The trial record is made up of the following documents:

The trial record must also include any other document that the court registrar directs you to include. These directions usually result from orders made at the Trial Management Conference.

Put the trial record together

  • Put the documents in chronological order (that is, order them by date). Number each page of each document in the top right-hand corner.
  • Make an index. List the name of each document, the date the document was filed, and the page number of the document in the trial record.
  • Fill in the fields on the cover page:
    • The court file number and the registry
    • Your name and the other person's name
    • The title "TRIAL RECORD"
    • A brief description of what the material is about (for example, "Pleadings and orders in the matter scheduled or a family law trial")
    • Contact information for you and the other person or your lawyers, including addresses for service, phone and fax numbers or email addresses that the registry can use to contact you
    • The time, date, and place of the trial
    • The estimated length of time for the trial
    • The name of the person filing the trial record

Make three copies of the record:

  • one for the registry,
  • one for you, and
  • one for the other person.

Put each trial record in a binder or have each one bound. The cover page goes on the outside of each binder (or it can be the cover for each bound copy).

Filing and serving the trial record

File the trial record at least 14 days, but not more than 28 days, before your first day of trial. (It might help to mark this two-week window in your calendar.) Take all three copies of the trial record to the court registry where your trial will be. The registry staff will stamp all three, keep one, and give two back to you.

Immediately after filing the trial record, you must serve one of the copies on the other person. Bring your copy of the trial record with you to trial.

File and serve the Trial Certificate

You'll need

The Trial Certificate is a very easy form to fill in. Each of you must file a Trial Certificate, which states:

How to file and serve the Trial Certificate

File the Trial Certificate at least 14 days, but not more than 28 days, before the first day of trial. Immediately after filing the Trial Certificate, serve it on the other person.

What if one person doesn't file a Trial Certificate?

If one person doesn't file a Trial Certificate, they won't be able to make interim applications (for example, for interim orders) without the permission of the court.

If neither of you files the Trial Certificate, your trial will be taken off the trial list and won't go ahead.


You've now completed all the steps necessary to schedule and prepare for a Supreme Court trial. For more information about what to expect, see our videos, Scheduling and Preparing for a Supreme Court Trial (which summarizes much of the information in this step-by-step guide) and An Introduction to Supreme Court (how to prepare for your trial date and what a typical courtroom looks like).